BMCR 2003.07.13

Response: Fletcher on Buckler on Fletcher on Slater

Response to 2003.07.07

Response by

I am grateful to Caroline Buckler for opening up a dialogue regarding my review of Niall Slater’s Spectator Politics. A few clarifications are obviously in order. Slater, and I suppose myself, are apparently “knife-wielding diagnosticians” who “remove humor wholesale”. If anyone proves that a theoretical approach and a sense of humor can co-exist, it is Niall Slater (whose sense of fun is, as I emphasize in my review, evident throughout SP). Is there some unmediated, pure meaning for Aristophanes to which Buckler has access and Slater and I don’t? Rants against the dreaded “T-word” are frequent enough in our discipline, as if somehow it is possible to do theory-free scholarship. Rather we should be grateful that Slater situates Classics within wider academic discourses, and for a discipline as marginalized as ours, this can only be good. Buckler then takes issue with Slater’s main thesis by claiming that the audience did not need to be instructed in the concept of role playing because they had performed in choruses and as actors themselves. The boys and men who did participate in these performances were surely members of an elite, the privileged musically trained few, who would also, thanks to their education, hold sway in the assemblies. The thousands of other audience members who voted in those assemblies certainly needed some guidance. So I must heartily disagree with this statement: “The Athenian audiences were quite capable of detecting political chicanery without any instruction from the stage or anything else.” A short response suffices: Sicilian expedition.

In the second part of her response Buckler scorns my query about the relationship between text and performance, although she has taken this remark out of context. Of course the text as we have it is a record of the original performance, but to speculate about whether a refinement of that text (with mention of specific members of the audience) was fully transcribed after the original performance (as playwrights sometimes do) hardly diminishes Slater’s thesis. Finally Buckler attacks my writing, and this is simply a matter of personal taste: “One of the hallmarks of the Theorists is their penchant for dressing their prose in gaudy robes of impenetrable jargon, a sin of which both author and reviewer here are guilty.” That old “jargon” bromide gets hauled out whenever conservative scholarship feels threatened by new methodologies. One of the most appealing features of Slater’s book is his straightforward and accessible writing style, but BMCR readers can draw their own conclusions about this.